Wednesday, April 9, 2008

TheBigDraw: "the two hours before dawn are the worst"

Which is kind of how I feel the day before the day before the opening reception for the previously mentioned project "The Big Draw."  How was it, you ask?  Oi.  It started with Adam coming down with Strepp and Bronchitis and it only went down from there.  

As all 10 artists sat around the South Philly living room talking about our art it felt like the beginning of a reality tv show with politics and colored pencils.  I was actually pretty excited.  After the introductions Alex read us the question/scenario that he had crafted by taking all of our art-words and combining them:  "The changes in society and culture can sometimes be overwhelming.  If you could create your own culture/society, what would you keep from our current society?  Who would be there?  What would your ideal metaverse look like?"  

It's a fair question.  I mean, shouldn't that actually be a starting place for policy workers, politicians and especially artists?  My head instantly filled with lists of words, concepts, ideas... but not images.  And I had a sinking suspicion that images were going to count for more here.  And I was right:  we were asked to start drawing out our ideas after only 20 minutes of half-hearted discussion on urban life.  No one mentioned Sexism, no one mentioned Homophobia, and Racism was only ever alluded to through conversations about gentrification.  

Then we drew.  From the moment pencil touched paper it was apparent that we were going to be doodling for the next 24 hours.  Hardly anyone was dealing with the topic, and we still had 22 hours left to draw.  While trying to integrate myself into a group of people who clearly all already knew eachother, I discerned that some of the other women in the group (we made up about half) were as vaguely concerned as I was, but I think at that point we still had hope.

We filled the first 15-18 feet of brown butcher paper after about 4 hours and moved onto the next.  And then the next, and then the next.  Alex tried, sort-of, to facilitate the interaction of our  various images and to create some narratives about the question...  but most of the work had nothing to do with anything.  Or eachother. 
  
(I don't know if you can see it, but that's definitely a crab battling a giant rat to the death. Hour 6ish.)

(Everyone ferociously working.  Hour 7? ish?)


(Bryan Rice giving his hand a rest and "drawing" with His Right Foot.  Hour 12ish.)

It continued on like this throughout the night.  Eventually we were so tired that it was hard to focus on the paper for very long at all, so we started doing timed drawings:  we would each claim a piece of the paper and work on it for 5-10 min.  Alex would then tell us to switch spaces, and we would scoot down the spot next to ours and spend 5-10 min responding to what was there.  It was like playing free-association, but with drawing.  And at first it was fun... something to make the time go a little faster.  But by morning, it was more like playing free association with a bunch of 15 year old boy-vandalists who could only think about penises and sodomy jokes, but who could draw better than you and had no censor whatsoever.  And feeling responsible for it, since all of your names are going to be associated with it.  It was terrible.  I would get to a new section of paper to find surprisingly well rendered smoking crackpipes and large breasted marmots, milk spurting from it's nipples in varying directions.  Or a squirrel with 40 balls.  Or, yes, a blue grinch-like character sodomizing an alarmed looking viking.  Clearly, the concept for the drawing, a perfect cultural metaverse, had long-since been abandoned (and thrown to floor, and trampled, and sodomized and smoked through a crackpipe.)  Come the last round, I was basically going around with an ebony pencil and blocking out what I thought was most offensive, and by the time Alex called for an end of the event all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there.  But no.  I had to sit through an embarrassing interaction between the group and a reporter from the Philadelphia City Paper Online.  And still, no censor.  It all seemed so funny to them.  When they jokingly asked the reporter not to include an image of the viking/grinch coupling I actually thought about having them take my name off the project.  (Here's the article.  This guy's either a lunatic or just a sensationalist.  Either way, the article manages to be entertaining, insulting and incorrect all at the same time.  http://www/phillyweekly.com/?inc=article&id=203&x=the-big-draw&_c=a-e )

(This, after finding out on Sunday morning that Charlton Heston had died.  Clearly we were still on topic.  Hour 18ish.)

I really wanted this to be a good experience, I really did.  And I wasn't prepared for the ludicrous amount of sexism, patriarchal bullshit and flat-out immaturity that comes, apparently inevitably, with working in a group with straight white middle-class art-boys.  (To make matters worse, the ring-leader of this offensive corral had left early in the evening to get drunk with his girlfriend, after which he came home and took a 5 hour nap.  So he couldn't even use sincere tired as an excuse for his behavior.)  I had hoped that I would feel better about the experience after getting some sleep.  But as I think on it more and more, I wonder about what the other women who participated are feeling.  At the time, many of them were laughing at the sodomy jokes and plentiful penises and much as the boys... and I want to attribute it, I guess, to fatigue and the fact that they knew eachother.  (It's always easier to forgive someone you know, right?) But not having spoken to any of them, I don't actually know how they felt.  At least Adam was as aghast as I was when he finally arrived at 8:30 sunday morning... so I have someone to back me up.

Anyway.  The opening is Friday night and like the title of this entry says, the two hours before dawn are the worst.  It's the bottom of the bell curve.  It's like waiting for a bomb to hit or for the sky to lighten...  Whether reception for the piece is positive or negative, at least after Friday the whole ordeal will be over with.  Come, and share in the pain and hilarity.

"The Big Draw" Opening Reception!
@ My House Gallery (2534 S. 8th St, Philadelphia)
Friday, April 11th, 5:30-8:30pm

2 comments:

Jasmine said...

Wow, and this sounded like such an exciting and promising project that would have great benefits. Shame. At least you did your best and took part in something that had such potential.

katiwithanilovesyou said...

Nora,
I'm sorry you had such a bizarre time of it. I wish i could make it to the opening but you know, saturday morning is auction morning! on the upside i'm planning on being in the city saturday night b/c my former roommate alan is having an opening at art making machine....furthermore i'll be struggling to figure out something to do on sunday....so maybe at some point while i'm in the city we should get together if you have a chance?
<3